Today was the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which means the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan is just a month away. U.S. special forces entered on October 7 to assist in the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Kabul that was harboring the Al-Qaeda organization.
In some sense that war ended in 2001 too. “With 500 Americans in three months, the war in Afghanistan was won,” Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer (ret.), author of Operation Dark Heart, told me a few months ago. The special operations-driven mission to remove the Taliban and hunt down Al-Qaeda then turned into the broader nation-building mission in which the West remains engaged today, while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pointed to drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia as the continuation of the post-9/11 pursuit of Al-Qaeda.
Today, up to 90 percent of the Afghan government’s budget relies on foreign aid and up to 97 percent of its GDP is based on foreign assistance and military spending.
Meanwhile, in 2010, a report by the International Council on Security and Development indicated 92 percent of Afghans were not aware of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Four in 10 Afghans believed United States and NATO forces were in Afghanistan to occupy the country or destroy Islam.
The first U.S. military casualty in the war was Special Forces Sergeant Nathan Chapman, who was killed on January 4, 2002. The 2,000th U.S. soldier died in Afghanistan last month and nearly 1,500 of those have died since 2009, when President Obama promised to refocus U.S. efforts onto the “good war.” Green-on-blue attacks (when Afghan security personnel turn on the American forces with whom they're working) have risen dramatically in the last two years, accounting for a whole 14 percent of Western casualties so far this year, according to the Long War Journal.
At the same time, support in the U.S. for the war in Afghanistan has dropped precipitously. More than two-thirds of Americans tell pollsters the U.S. should not be in Afghanistan. Both Obama and Mitt Romney, each of whom toned down their campaign today out of respect for 9/11, appear committed to a long-term continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan despite overwhelmingly popular disapproval, suggesting the war will continue whether the American people want it to or not.